Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Book of Mormon Is Objectively True Part II

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to believe it. After all, many people have advanced kooky claims in the past. No one wants to gullibly believe something just to find out that it is not true.

The Book of Mormon is an extraordinary claim. Joseph Smith claimed he got it from an angel and translated it from an ancient language by the power of God. Pretty far fetched right?

But if the evidence for this account is very strong, then you are justified in believing it.

After all, you believe in some strange things yourself I bet. Do you believe in the Big Bang? That matter and energy are the same thing? (that's what Einstein's E=MC^2 equation states. Energy equals Mass times the speed of light squared). Do you believe that a bunch of chemicals, organized into a brain can cause you to be conscious and have emotions, dreams, loves, pain joy etc?

If so, then you believe some extraordinary things, but you have good reason to do so. There is also very good reason to believe that the Book of Mormon is true.

Today's evidence: the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris and David Whitmer.

In one of the first pages of the Book of Mormon you find their statement saying that they not only saw the gold plates from which it was supposedly translated, but they also claim to have seen an angel who presented the plates to them and told them the book was true.

All three men were confirmed as having good character and reputation in the community. In particular was David Whitmer's fascinating story. After his death, the newspaper the Richmond Conservator wrote:
"On Sunday evening before his death he called the family and his attending physician, Dr. George W. Buchanan, to his bedside and said, “Doctor do you consider that I am in my right mind?” to which the Doctor replied, “Yes, you are in your right mind, I have just had a conversation with you.” He then addressed himself to all present and said: “I want to give my dying testimony. You must be faithful in Christ. I want to say to you all that the Bible and the record of the Nephites, (The Book of Mormon) are true, so you can say that you have heard me bear my testimony on my death bed....
On Monday morning he again called those present to his bedside, and told them that he had seen another vision which reconfirmed the divinity of the “Book of Mormon,” and said that he had seen Christ in the fullness of his glory and majesty, sitting upon his great white throne in heaven waiting to receive his children.11
The Richmond Democrat also added this comment:
“Skeptics may laugh and scoff if they will, but no man can listen to Mr. Whitmer as he talks of his interview with the Angel of the Lord, without being most forcibly convinced that he has heard an honest man tell what he honestly believes to be true.”"

The other witnesses also testified on their deathbeds that the Book of Mormon is true.

Their witnesses don't prove the book true, but they are a notch in favor of it being true. My last post gave other reasons and my next post will discuss even more. I hope that the accumulation of evidence will lead you to further research and to reading the book itself. (you can get one for free here


  1. You have probably heard of all the changes made to subsequent editions of the book of mormon. Most were minor grammatical errors. The interesting thing is the rate of grammatical errors decreases by quite a bit during the Isaiah sections of the Book of Mormon. This wouldnt make sense if the Isaiah sections were translated from the gold plates like the rest of the Book of Mormon. Perhaps Joseph Smith made a perfect translation and the grammatical errors come from Mormon himself and he just copied Isaiah? You can see the problems with this since grammatical errors dont transfer from one language to the next very well. Maybe it does, not entirely sure. What do you think?

  2. Ammon,

    Interesting point. I certainly don't think that the grammatical mistakes were Mormon's. After all, he wasn't writing in English. He wrote in Reformed Egyptian. But, many of the grammatical "mistakes" that were fixed, actually make more sense in Semitic languages than in English. They were later changed so they'd make more sense to an English reader. For example, often there's a list of items and each one is separated by an "and." In English you'd only separate the last two with an "and." But in Semitic languages you'd separate each one with an "and."

    A review of a good book that addresses this is found here:

    For a simpler read, see:

    Concerning Isaiah, did Joseph Smith use the King James Bible to help him with that part? That seems likely. I don't have any problem with that, although I don't understand why it would be necessary. Maybe it has to do with God's penchant for not wasting anything. See Mark 8:8. He seems very stingy with His divine power. Maybe stingy isn't the right word. Conservative, maybe.

    But concerning Isaiah, it is not exactly the same. Indeed, some of the changes seem to comport more readily with the ancient Hebrew than the King James Bible does anyway. See 2 Ne 12:16

    For a scholarly discussion of the point, see:

  3. Ammon,

    I just realize that I kind of misread your post.
    It just seems to me like Joseph was getting lazy and instead of inquiring or thinking about the correctness of each passage, he merely used Isaiah to fill in the rest. After all, he was human just like the rest of us. I'll be sure to take up the issue with him when I see him in the next life. I'm confident there is an explanation, although I don't know what it is yet. That scholarly article that I referenced does address your point though. Maybe Mr. Tvedtnes' explanations are correct.

  4. That's reasonable. I actually cant find a source that studied the rates of grammatical errors in the different sections of the BOM and I cant find the article I read that from. So IF in fact there are fewer errors per Isaiah verse (which there may not be)then Joseph Smith likely just read from the bible for the Isaiah chapters.

    Another thing I have a hard time with the BOM that maybe you can give your perspective on is Mosiah 15; 1-5. It seems to explicitly repeat the trinity doctrine. There are other changes since the 1830 version of the BOM that have been documented which used to support the idea of Jesus being the Father (1Nephi 11:21, and 1Nephi 13:40) you can probably find an 1830 edition on line actually I'll do it for you:

    This seems to go along with the idea of Mormon doctrine evolving into what it is today and the book of mormon changing as it evolves. I think the doctrine that God and Jesus are separate came after 1830. What do you think?

  5. Well Ammon that kind of gets away from my original post. But I did look it up and here is one explanation that may answer your question

    Of course, I believe in the LDS version of the Godhead because I believe Joseph Smith's account as found in the Pearl of Great Price. When I read that account the Holy Ghost confirms to me that Joseph Smith did see God the Father and Jesus Christ as separate beings.

    I think you have accepted the world's explanation for what the Holy Ghost is. Perhaps it's wishful thinking, confirmation bias or the "effect of a frenzied mind" as Korihor put it. And yet I know that it is true. There is such a thing as the Holy Ghost and he did really speak to me, confirming to me that Joseph's account of the First Vision is true.

    I know what you think of that. I once doubted the church too. On my mission I got a hold of a book written by a psychologist that convinced me that I had no spirit. His account of human development was so believable I thought that the church's explanation couldn't be true.

    Turns out that his explanation was one that has been rejected by the majority of psychologists today. But when I believed him, I forgot all of the spiritual experienced I'd had, including the miracle that happened to me that I describe in the first post on this blog. How could I just forget that?

    I prayed today, to know how to respond to this, and I felt the Holy Ghost tell me, "bear your testimony." My brain told me how useless this would be because you've heard so many testimonies and have decided that they must all be based on ignorance or something. But when I find a challenge to my testimony, I've found that every time, if I search for an answer, one comes. In addition, I learn so many good things and proofs of the church, the book of mormon, and Joseph Smith's testimony.

    You can find the same. I recommend reading this book:

  6. Here's something interesting I found by Hugh Nibley:

    What is thought to be a very serious charge against the Book of Mormon today is that it, a book written down long before New Testament times and on the other side of the world, actually quotes the New Testament! True, it is the same Savior speaking in both, and the same Holy Ghost, and so we can expect the same doctrines in the same language.

    But what about the "Faith, Hope and Charity" passage in Moroni 7:45? Its resemblance to 1 Corinthians 13 is undeniable. This particular passage, recently singled out for attack in Christianity Today, is actually one of those things that turn out to be a striking vindication of the Book of Mormon. For the whole passage, which scholars have labeled "the Hymn to Charity," was shown early in this century by a number of first-rate investigators working independently (A. Harnack, J. Weiss, R. Reizenstein) to have originated not with Paul at all, but to go back to some older but unknown source: Paul is merely quoting from the record.

    Now it so happens that other Book of Mormon writers were also peculiarly fond of quoting from the record. Captain Moroni, for example, reminds his people of an old tradition about the two garments of Joseph, telling them a detailed story which I have found only in [th' Alabi of Persia,] a thousand-year-old commentary on the Old Testament, a work still untranslated and quite unknown to the world of Joseph Smith. So I find it not a refutation but a confirmation of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon when Paul and Moroni both quote from a once well-known but now lost Hebrew writing.

  7. I thought you and I were similar in our experience with the spirit. I remember a conversation I had with you once in the Wilk.

    I dont think my comment was getting off track from your post because I was bringing up some points that appear to be good evidence against the Book of Mormon being true (for me objective truth is truth). It seems difficult to explain away the evidence that the writers of the BOM believed in the trinity. You didnt really touch on what your thoughts were on that. The wikipedia page you sent me doesnt talk about the Mosiah chapter. Maybe I'm not understanding that chapter but seems obvious.

    Anyway, I am curious about what you think the spirit is because like you I stopped believing in the spirit on my mission. Later studying neuroscience really confirmed to me that there is no spirit. If a persons brain is altered so is their personality. I'm sure you know about phineas Gage. There are so many examples of good people having severe negative personality alterations when they experience a stroke or other causes of brain damage. Damentia isnt a disorder of the spirit, its a disorder of the brain. What was it that this psychologist said that turned out to be wrong?

    I really just want to have your honest thougts on these issues. Your instinct that testimony bearing would be useless was mostly right. There really isnt much I can say to your own experience feeling the holy ghost. Its hard to even trust my own memory let alone other peoples memory of holy ghost experiences. I do think it is good personal evidence as long as the holy ghost doesnt start telling you to do dangerous things to yourself and others. Then I think you should question your experience a little more.

    I hope I dont come off sounding strident. I only ask you because you seem like a reasonable person, and thats the way I remember you. These arent the reasons I stopped beleiving, you can ask if you're interested.

  8. Ammon,

    Thank you for your considerate response. I do remember talking to you in the Wilkinson center a few times, but I don't remember everything that we talked about. I do remember once bringing some papers written by some BYU professors about psychology, neuroscience and spiritual matters, but you refused to read them.

    I don't really blame you because I refuse to read Hitchens and Dennett too. If I don't enjoy reading things contrary to my beliefs, I can't blame you for feeling the same way. (I do like to read Hitchens' political commentary. He really is a good writer).

    I have several responses in my mind concerning specific criticisms you have, including the trinity doctrine you mentioned and the brain/spirit question. I also know that there is very strong evidence of the historical accuracy of the Book of Mormon, if you will just look for it. But this debate makes me so tired. I hate it. It may seem odd, coming from a lawyer, but I actually hate controversy and argument.

    Concerning your comment on the Book of Mormon writers believing in the trinity, I would point you to these passages in the Book:
    In speaking to the Brother of Jared, Jesus says:
    "Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh." Ether 3:16. A trinitarian would call that blasphemy. I mean, "body of my spirit?" That is not Nicean at all.

    When Jesus visits the Nephites, he speaks to them about how the Jews did not know that the Nephites were the other "fold." He then says "And not at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell it unto your brethren at Jerusalem" 3 Nephi 15:14. A trinitarian would not talk like that. Or like this:

    "Father, I thank thee that thou hast given the Holy Ghost unto these whom I have chosen; and it is because of their belief in me that I have chosen them out of the world.
    • • •
    28 Father, I thank thee that thou hast purified those whom I have chosen, because of their faith, and I pray for them, and also for them who shall believe on their words, that they may be purified in me, through faith on their words, even as they are purified in me."
    3 Nephi 19: 20, 28.

    I could definitely see Joseph and Oliver not understanding the Godhead doctrine in 1830 (especially Oliver). But the Book of Mormon was clearly not written by a trinitarian. Those phrases that sound trinitarian can, in my opinion, easily be fitted into LDS doctrine.

  9. A few things to be fair:

    It is not obvious that you hate to argue or are tired of arguing about the book of mormon. You posted a blog entry called "The Book of Mormon is Objectively True part 2" on your facebook wall. This seems to me to mean that you at least like to think about arguments for the Book of Mormon. The fact that you put it into a public forum like facebook appears to be an invitation to discuss. I think the tone of your first post also gives that impression.

    You also implied that I read and agree with Hitchens, Dennett, and Dawkins. I have actually never read a book by Hitchens or Dennett. The only books by Dawkins I have read are about Evolution. If you want an academic to stereotype me by use Scott Atran. And here are some books I have read that disagree with my beliefs: The Old Testament, The New Testament, The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, Jesus the Christ, Articles of Faith, and A Marvelous Work and a Wonder to name a few. Don't bother naming what you have read, and I wont hold you to your statement that you refuse to read books that are contrary to your beliefs. You can look at my blog if you want to know what I actually think about religion:

    As far as refusing to read some papers by some BYU professors about the spirit. I dont remember us even having a discussion that went that far. At that time I was very hesitant to talk freely about my beliefs about the church. The most I would ever even hint about was that I struggled with my testimony. Actually for most of the time I was trying to force myself to believe in some way. "Refuse" is a strong word. It doesn't sound like me at that time in my life, but I honestly don't remember.

    Ok, now that I've maybe addressed the unfair assumptions you've made about me I want to talk about the scriptures you brought up and also the Mosiah scriptures that "can easily be fitted into LDS doctrine."

  10. ...continued

    The central idea of the trinity is that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the same being. Now whether Jesus had a "spirit body" is not relevant to the doctrine of the trinity, sure it can be construed to contradict some Nicean doctrines, but lots of doctrines where set in place at that council. The other scriptures you quoted are even less relevant. I did not say the writers were "trinitarians" which you seem to think are catholic and early protestant. I said the book of mormon appears to support the doctrine of the trinity more forcefully than the Bible. Now look at Mosiah 15: 2-4:

    "I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
    And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, BEING the Father and the Son-
    And they are one God, yeah, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth."

    This is hard to interpret as meaning anything other than the Father and the Son are one and the same. Nowhere in the New Testament is this doctrine of the trinity so clearly stated. Even more convincing evidence are the scriptures that were changed from the original 1830 publication:

    1Nephi 11:21 "Behold the lamb of God, even the Eternal Father!" was changed to:
    "Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!"

    1Nephi 13:40 "...shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Saviour of the world; and that all men must come unto Him..." changed to:
    "...shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him..."

    twice "the Son" was inserted. The meaning was completely changed. Hard to believe that was twice an accident.